On October 21st, 2020, the Sustainable Growth Program (SGP) of CEDARE, represented by Dr. Ahmed El-Dorghamy, presented results of the refineries upgrades study for air quality improvement, delivered to the audience of the Egyptian Society for Chest Diseases and Tuberculosis (ESCT) in their 61st annual congress. It was chaired by Prof. Dr. Awawd Tag El-Din, President of Congress and Society, and of Pulmonology in Ain Shams University, and attended by a host of Egypt’s leading pulmonologists exchanging experience to advance efforts in improving public health.
The key highlight is that in light of the recent inauguration of the refinery upgrade project of the Egyptian Refining Company (ERC) in Mostorod, providing 2.3 million tons of Euro 5 diesel fuel per year, a new opportunity arises. It is now possible to have sufficient quantities to provide high quality fuel for Greater Cairo, the most vulnerable urban area in terms of air pollution.
Key study outcomes have been noted as follows:
In accordance with the agenda of the government of Egypt focusing on the advancement of education and health in the coming period, and in alignment with the Egyptian Sustainable Development Strategy (Egypt Vision 2030), CEDARE in continued cooperation with the Ministry of Environment of Egypt and the United Nations Environment Program (UN Environment), conducted a study addressing an issue of pressing priority to mitigate air pollution in Egypt, with outcomes summarized in this policy brief, and implementable as of October 2020 in light of recent developments in the sector. The highlights are as follows:
- The nation is continuing its achievements in approaching self-sufficiency in local production of fuel products to reduce import dependence by 2030, thanks to the efforts of the Ministry of Petroleum and the relevant authorities and stakeholders advancing the sector towards numerous promising projects to boost local production of high-quality products.
- Stakeholders concerned with environmental and health factors however draw attention to a very important gap associated with improve public health and air quality in Egypt in light of these developments in the refining sector. The current quality of Diesel fuel (the fuel colloquially referred to as “Soular”), currently has a content of Sulphur being far more than 100 times than the limits allowed in common international standards, and has been observed to cause substantial health and environmental damage, and it will continue be so without additional interventions. It has been estimated to remain at dangerous levels even with ongoing expansions of production (it will still be >100 times more than target quality beyond 2030), with consideration of the following points:
- Improving the quality of diesel fuel is identified as a priority in addressing the largest contributor to air pollution in Egypt; transport.
- High contents of Sulphur (average 2600ppm and may reach 5000 ppm, a hundred times higher than acceptable levels) results in inhibiting the performance of the vehicle emission control devices in all diesel fueled vehicles in Egypt, confirmed by studies indicating high pollutant concentrations attributed to vehicle emissions in ambient air. Current specifications allow up to 10,000ppm.
- Costs of health damage exceed USD 2.5 Billion attributed to air pollution, of which a third is caused by the transport sector, primarily due to Egypt’s inferior diesel fuel quality and high consumption.
- The study recommends coordinating efforts with the Ministry of Environment to develop the action plan for introducing Euro-5 diesel fuel standards as a priority for addressing public health and environmental concerns, and invites relevant stakeholders to cooperate in pursuing the following recommendations based on the preliminary study on the topic, which assured the viability of implementation:
- Enforcing Euro-5 diesel fuel standards in Greater Cairo as a first phase (given the availability of Euro-5 diesel fuel quantities today produced by advanced refineries) and establishing a new low-Sulphur standard for diesel fuel.
- Nation-wide Euro-5 diesel standards enforcement throughout all Egypt upon availability of sufficient quantities (i.e. through new refinery projects + desulphurization (Sulphur removal treatment) of the products of old refineries + prohibiting import of high-Sulphur diesel fuel). Notably, costs of health and environmental damage are greater than the costs of desulphurization measures according to international studies and CEDARE’s analysis.
- Incorporating costs of damage to health and environmental degradation into policy development processes. The World Bank studies on the damage costs of air pollution (sector note of 2013) indicated that Egypt incurs substantial costs due to damage to health from air pollution, reaching approx. 1% of GDP. This valuation would further increase if additionally considering impact on tourism, agriculture, historical monuments, climate change, and the quality of life in general, whereas vehicle emissions alone contribute to about one third of air pollution in Egypt.
Accordingly, the study stresses the importance of the role of the Ministry of Petroleum in effective participation in environmental studies and associated consultation events in cooperation with the Ministry of Environment and the Center for Environment and Development for the Arab Region and Europe (CEDARE) to effectively address this challenge and implement the recommended roadmap and interventions herein and further recommends enforcing periodic reporting of status of sulfur quality in diesel fuel produced by each refinery to enable the Ministry of Environment to plan for the urgently needed emission control policies and measures.
The full policy brief and attachment are available through the following links: